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Fear of Bloat Costs More Money Than Actual Cases of Bloat

By   /  April 29, 2019  /  3 Comments

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The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is Canada’s national, industry-led funding agency for be
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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.


  1. Tom A Krawiec says:

    This is a great article describing how to graze high alfalfa pastures safely. The techniques discussed work very well. However, the article does not consider palatability. At one time in my grazing career I was a huge proponent of grazing alfalfa. Since most of our leased land was former hay land, we had a lot of alfalfa to deal with, grazing sheep, cow/calf & yearlings. We were certainly able to achieve better gains than on straight grass. The problem, though, is that to get good production from an alfalfa/grass stand, the animals will graze the grass hard before they move onto the alfalfa. Once I noticed what was happening, I did a taste test on the lower leaves of the alfalfa. They are bitter to the taste which explains why livestock would rather eat something else. In fact, if you follow sheep & cattle through a high alfalfa paddock, you will see them biting just the tops off. This will happen throughout the entire paddock!
    To maintain production & build a healthy forage stand, I moved to introducing red clover to my pastures. In fact, my Cree name is Tommy Red Clover.lol In the last four years I have also experienced grazing alsike clover & cicer milkvetch with great results. The thing with clovers & cicer milkvetch is that animals find the plants palatable and in my experience, gain as well as grazing alfalfa. Since animals find these legumes tasty, they graze them the same way they do grass. By having an even graze between grass & legume, production is maintained without compromising soil & pasture health. Further, I have yet to have an animal bloat on clover. Not so with alfalfa (sad face).
    Side note: Bart Lardner has done some very creative and useful research and worth following what he is up to!

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Great info, Tom! Thanks!

      About that taste test…what tastes bad to us isn’t necessarily a sign that it tastes bad to animals. Palatability is more a matter of the nutrients and toxins in the plant and what the animal needs. It’s a discovery your friend Fred Provenza made in the last couple decades that hasn’t really gotten out there. Still, I’ve tested things for taste too. Imagine my disappointment when what was promoted as an “ice cream plant” for cattle, didn’t taste like ice cream at all. 🙂

      • Tom A Krawiec says:

        Point taken Kathy. If it isn’t bitterness, though, I’m not sure why livestock prefer eating other things before the lower leaves of alfalfa. In fact the manager of research farm in the US told me he felt alfalfa was a huge failure when it came to grazing. I don’t remember his name, but he mentioned it when we were discussing the nutritional value of pig weed.

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